Homer's odyssey ends at the top

'Simpsons' gets ready to nuke new 'Reservations,' holdovers

By weekend's end, "The Simpsons Movie" should be rolling in plenty of d'oh. After 18 years as a bulwark of the Fox network, America's favorite two-dimensional family is making its first appearance on the big screen, and the curiosity factor alone should propel the 20th Century Fox release to the top boxoffice spot in North America.

Warner Bros. Pictures' restaurant-set romance "No Reservations" also bows this weekend and will be looking for female moviegoers in the mood for an adult love story. But with a crowded field of holdovers jostling for attention, "Reservations" might find cracking the top five a challenge.

As for the weekend's other two wide releases — the golfing comedy "Who's Your Caddy?" and the suspense thriller "I Know Who Killed Me" — they will be lucky if they make it into the bottom rungs of the top 10.

Certainly, no one in America needs an introduction to the Simpsons clan. Creator Matt Groening and producer-director James L. Brooks, who oversaw the creation of the TV series, are on board as producers and writers of the movie, along with a lineup of veterans from the show. David Silverman directs the film, in which Homer and family bump up against the environment and other hot-button topics.

While there always is a question about how many fans will show up for a movie based on a TV series that is going strong in first-run and syndication, the fact that the Simpsons' fan base rushed the dozen 7-Eleven locations in North America that were outfitted as Kwik-E-Marts is a good omen. While Fox is cautiously hoping that the movie opens in the mid-$30 million range, it could easily shoot into $40 million territory, possibly hitting the $50 million mark as the PG-13 movie opens in 3,922 theaters.

If there's one softness in "The Simpsons Movie's" tracking, it's older women, which provides an opening for "Reservations," starring Catherine Zeta-Jones and Aaron Eckhart as top chefs who become romantically involved between courses. The PG-rated film is directed by Scott Hicks ("Shine") and is based on Sandra Nettelbeck's 2001 German film "Mostly Martha."

Debuting in 2,425 theaters, the film, a Warners/Village Roadshow co-production, could find itself hovering around the $8 million-$10 million mark. Whether it breaks into the top five will depend on the relative strengths of Universal Pictures' "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry" and New Line Cinema's "Hairspray," both in their second weekend; Warners' "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," in its third round; and DreamWorks/Paramount's "Transformers," in its fourth stand. They all likely will be checking in amid the $10 million-$20 million range.

On the lower end of the spectrum, Sony Pictures' release of TriStar's "I Know Who Killed Me" and Lionsgate Films' "Caddy," which both launch in slightly more than 1,000 theaters, are seeking to gain a toehold in the marketplace.

An R-rated thriller, and yet another tale of abduction and torture, "Killed" got an unexpected burst of publicity this week when its star, Lindsay Lohan, was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence and cocaine possession. Directed by Chris Sivertson, the film still faces an uphill struggle because genre fans have cooled to hard-R serial killer tales of late.

Director Don Michael Paul's "Caddy," a PG-13 comedy starring Antwan "Big Boi" Patton about a rap mogul who forces his way into a conservative country club, is aimed squarely at the black, family audience. The film is the first title from Our Story Films, the new production outfit backed by the Weinstein Co. and BET founder Robert L. Johnson's RLJ Cos.

Neither movie is expected to rise above the $5 million mark.